Just because he was handsome and had saved her life once didn't mean she was going to throw caution and self-interest to the wind. She'd had John followed after that meeting outside the Powell's home. Brian was the only person she would trust to do something that dangerous, and Zoe didn't stint on hazard pay. Three days, she'd told him. No more than that, because she'd already figured out that John's survival depended in large part on his observation skills. Even Brian's talents for disguises would be put to the test with this assignment.
What Brian had found led her to more information that confirmed her suspicions: her erstwhile chauffeur was indeed the man that the CIA and NYPD were seeking.
She'd had that drink with him anyway. Zoe took risks as long as she knew the odds. John was attractive, unlikely to demand more than she was willing to offer, and he was connected to a man who probably had access to more information about the force behind the failed Powell frame-up job. She couldn't ignore an opportunity to learn more about that.
Too bad that last part didn't pan out, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable interaction, one she was looking forward to repeating at some point.
Brian had done a couple of other jobs for her since then but Zoe had a feeling that John was somehow involved when Brian sent her the text message. It read: something you need to see 8O
An emoticon, really? Brian loved to display a cheeky attitude, but the last time he'd used an emoticon in a text was when he'd been following John. Zoe raised her eyebrows as she considered the possibilities, then she sent him a text in reply to set up a meeting.
Early March weather didn't deter Brian; he preferred outdoor meetings whenever possible. Zoe sat on a park bench to wait, grateful that it was merely cold and not raining or snowing as well.
"Hey, doll," Brian said as he approached her. He was sporting a thug look today: baggy jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and his shaved head was covered with tattoos. Temporary tats, she assumed; Brian used his face and body as a blank canvas to create different looks. Right now his slight frame radiated menace; amusing to her because she knew how deceptive it was.
"Brian," she said with a slight nod, not acknowledging the brashness of his greeting. "You have something for me?" She was looking for clues on how to start negotiating a price for this without knowing what he had.
He sat next to her-deliberately close, just because he enjoyed trying to discomfit her. Slipping an envelope into her hands, he said, "A service for a long-term client."
"You have to look at it now, though. That's my price."
Porn? she wondered. That was unlikely, but she couldn't think of what else it might be. She looked at the manila envelope for a moment and then slid her nail under the flap. Time to see what this was all about. Two photos, both of the same subject, slid into her hands.
"Good Lord!" she exclaimed. Next to her Brian snickered. She stared at the pictures in disbelief. John, wearing his usual suit and overcoat, with a baby strapped to his chest. She would have thought a bomb was more likely, to be honest. Maybe he was using the baby to hide one? No, probably not. At least she hoped not.
It was just... "so wrong," she muttered.
Brian snickered again. "I know!"
"I can't stop looking at it," she said faintly.
"It's the way he's balancing the weight, leaning back like that," Brian said. "Or the baby in combination with a suit."
"Or the fact that it's John with the ninja skills and guns holding onto a baby," Zoe replied.
"It's a cute kid," offered Brian.
"Yeah," she agreed. Brian looked at her in surprise. "Well, it's clean and not attached to me, so it's cute." She shuffled between the two photos again. John and baby. John and baby.
"Why only two pictures, by the way?" she asked.
"I was doing another job and rocking my Mary Jane Watson look, and your guy? Totally has an eye for the red-heads."
Zoe's lips twitched. "Really," she murmured.
"Yeah, too risky. I couldn't get any closer in case he looked past the hair and fake boobs. Mary Jane will have to go into hiding if you ever have me tail him again."
She quietly laughed. "Hopefully that won't be necessary." Turning to look at Brian, Zoe said, "I do owe you one for this. Though now I'm not sure how I'm going to get this image out of my head."
Zoe flipped the pictures again. John. Baby. John. Baby. Next to her Brian unsuccessfully stifled another giggle.